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Thursday, 11.15.2018
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4:56 AM
Manningham Council breaks their own laws.

Some years back Manningham Council placed a heritage overlay on the old Council Offices (HO48). The problem is that the Council HAS SINCE RENOVATED AND ADDED TO THE COUNCIL OFFICES SEVERAL TIMES apparently without even checking whether or not there was a heritage overlay on it. (Please see Council minutes 28 November 2017, page 112 point A and page 116 point 3.21).

Manningham Council has a history of being somewhat sloppy in the way they manage their overlays. They call their mistakes 'anomalies' but I think most would say that behind them is just plain carelessness.

Please consider these 'anomalies' they mention in the 28 November 2017 minutes:

"Several of these errors and anomalies have arisen from relatively recent amendments to the planning scheme where land has inadvertently been included in an incorrect zone." (see page 113 point 2.3 and page 115 point 3.14).

And consider this:

"Other corrections relate to land in private ownership which appears to have been inadvertently incorporated within a public land zone when the new format Manningham Planning Scheme was approved in June 2000." (see page 113 point 2.3).

I would say the owners of that private land would be impressed.

Another 'anomaly' is where the council has planned for a public road to run through a cemetery. Also, in this same cemetery, the council has a DD03 (Design and Development Overlay). (Please see page 115 point 3.19 of the 28 November minutes).

Either the cemetery came first and the council added the road and the development overlay later. Or the road and overlay came first and the council added the cemetery later. Either way you look at it, it was a very sloppy and careless piece of planning work.

Regardless of the sequence of events, you can imagine the Planning and Environment staff after they put the overlays in place sitting back in the council offices saying, 'Yes, that looks about right'.


The Crime at hand.

But lets get back to the issue at hand. Let's consider how the council apparently doesn't check or even bother with the heritage overlays they place on their own buildings.

So what was the heritage overlay on the old council offices? Let me give you the Council's exact words:

"The building was identified as being of State significance in the Heritage Study (Context P/L, Peterson R, Stafford B 1991). The Statement of Significance identified the building as being. ‘Of State significance as the most complex and arguably the finest expression of a Miesian pavilion in the state.Two significant trees on the site were also identified as being of significance in the Manningham Heritage Garden and Significant Tree Study (John Patrick Pty Ltd 2006), although these have since been removed as part of the development of MC² in approximately 2010." (page 116, point 3.22)

What is important to note is what the council said when they put this heritage overlay in place. They said that the council offices was 'the most complex and arguably the finest expression of Miesian pavilion in the state'. We can see that they were very confident of it's heritage value when they put the overlay in place.

Also note the value placed on two trees that their own study identified as being of significance.

The problem was that the heritage overlay over the council offices and the overlay on the two trees got in the way of council plans. (The two trees were in the way of the new MC2 building Manningham wanted to build.)

I wrote an article back in 2013 titled "Heritage Overlays" in which I argued that the council overlays are often a problem to owners and often get in the way of what people what to do with their own land.

It is interesting that Manningham Council had the same experience.

So what did Manningham Council do?

When they wanted to renovate the council offices it appears they didn't even bother to check if their was a heritage overlay on it.

When they wanted to build the MC2 building they also did not even check regarding the two trees. Instead they simply got rid of them.


At some point they discovered both were protected by heritage overlays.

You could imagine what would happen if you or I were to ignore heritage overlays and just went ahead and did what we liked with a heritage home. The council would be on us in an instance. They would have us in court. Not only would we be fined but the council would insist that we put the property back to the exact state it was in before our changes.

In fact, Manningham Council did exactly this with some unfortunate people at Warrandyte who had the audacity to plant fruit trees, bring in some soil and dig a trench in their newly acquired property that was protected by a council overlay. The council made them put it back exactly as it was, even to the point of insisting the earth was returned in the exact same layers it had when it was removed.( Please see VCAT case 2044 of 27 October 2011)

And please see my article 'Heritage Overlays' on this website (dated 12/10/2013) to see how intrusive, unreasonable, pedantic and unnecessary the heritage overlays are on private houses in Manningham. And the council fanatically enforces their heritage overlays. They control the color of paint you can use, the type of material, fasteners and so on. And if you do not comply, there are harsh punitive measures waiting for you. They have little regard for how their overlays hold people back from using and developing their properties as they wish.

The council would no doubt respond by saying that people knew there was a heritage overlay on the property when they bought it. They knew that there were restrictions with what they could do with their property. But there was a heritage overlay on the council offices and on two trees. When these got in the way of the Council's plans it appears they didn't even bother checking but just went ahead and did what they wanted.


How could Manningham Council sweep this under the carpet?

But there is no need to worry. Manningham Council makes the laws. They can do what they like. Surely you don't think they have to obey their own laws.

But they still had to get rid of the stink.

So Manningham Council employed Heritage consultant, Lovell Chen, to investigate the original citation within the Manningham Heritage Study of 1991. This documant includes Manningham Council's own confident statement which claimed the council offices were: "the most complex and arguably the finest expression of Miesian pavilion in the state."

Lovell Chen started by saying:

"the council study provided little to substantiate the assertion of it's significance."

Let's stop here for a bit. MOST of the Heritage overlays established by Manningham council provide little to substantiate historical significance. Please see my article "Heritage Overlay" on this website dated 12/10/2013.

The council has put heritage overlays on old treated pine fences with rusting bolts sticking out of them! Yes treated pine! Also one old barbed wire farm fence has a heritage overlay. It is mostly buried by grass and almost completely fallen over. In my view both these fences are simply a danger to the public. They also put a heritage overlay on a white wooden fence similar to ones built in the hundreds decades ago around football ovals in state high schools. They even put overlays on the INSIDE of homes (not on the outside). And just who do you think will enjoy this piece of 'heritage'. They have even put overlays on display homes that were meant to be examples of the type of homes to be built on new developments.

In my view, Manningham Councils heritage overlays border on being unhinged. They typically provide very little to substantiate the significance they claim. Their historical significance appears to be only in the mind of the council.

But that will not stop the council. They enforce their heritage overlays with fanatical belief in their historically significance and they apply penalties for anyone who dares to alter one without their approval.

But it is interesting to note that when the council falls foul of their own laws, they quickly accept the notion that there was ever any real significance behind the heritage overlay on the building they altered.

Lovell Chan then goes on to say...

"Notably, it included little comparative analysis and made no attempt to place the work within the Blocks’ oeuvre (dictionary definition: the body of work of a painter, composer, or author. ) or to place their work within the local architectural context.

Which also is complete rubbish. The council started out by saying, "the most complex and arguably the finest expression of Miesian pavilion in the state." Now they want to include the idea that a building also needs to be part of a body of work in the surrounding area.

They appear to want to say now that their wonderful Miesian pavilion must also be seen in the context of other local architecture. Isn't that odd! Not one of the heritage overlays I have read about in the council documents has mentioned, as far as I can recall, any need to be 'placed in the local architectural context'. From what I can tell, all the heritage overlays I have read of stand on their own merits and are examples of one thing or another independent of what was around them. The old Tullamore golf house is a good example. All of the context of the old Tullamore homestead has been replaced by high density homes. It's only context now is one or two original trees and a narrow border around the building. Essentially, the building now stands on it's own merit with little if any architectural context. The same can be said for the fallen down farm fence, the treated pine fence and so on.

But the council is desperate for anything that will get them off the hook.

Lovell Chan then goes on to say:

The citation also made no distinction between original and later fabric in its physical assessment of the building and contained a small number of errors and omissions in relation to the history and development of the building.

This is also complete rubbish. Even the council allows owners of heritage properties to extend their buildings with new additions and changes provided the changes look as though the were of the same period and style as the original building. And as a result, many heritage sites in Manningham would naturally 'contain errors and omissions in relation to the history and development of the building'.

But in the end Manningham Council had no choice but to adopt all of Lovell Chen's arguments and all it's nonsense, contradictions and rubbish. They have already removed the trees and changed the building that was supposed to be protected. So what else could they do?

They conclude, quoting Lovell Chan's arguments, their only option is to remove the heritage overlay from the council buildings.

Job done. Their crime is swept under the rug. The stink is taken away.

You see, Manningham council can get away with breaking their own laws.

Just think for a moment. Would Manningham Council accept an argument from an Heritage Consultant we were to employ to justify our actions after we had already made the changes we wanted to a heritage property without consulting with the council at all! I doubt it very much. I think they would pursue you in court with a vengeance if you did what they did.


Can We Trust the Reports from Consultants employed by Manningham Council?

Surely we can trust what they say. These people are assumed to be independent and are assumed to give an independent opinion outside of the thinking and agenda of the council.

It sounds reasonable. But we need to look very closely at Manningham Council's history with 'independent consultants'. Please see the next article on this website "How Independent are Independent Consultants."


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